SPORTS

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January 20, 2012

Despite hard fall, distance runners find success

Women’s track and field endured a disappointing start to their indoor season Saturday, with an 88–48 dual loss to UW-Oshkosh.

The Maroons took first place in only four of the 14 events contested, and even against opposition as strong as national champions UW-Oshkosh, it was a frustrating way to start the year.

“We’ve got good attitude, we’ve got good work ethic, but somehow we didn’t turn it up to a competitive level last Saturday and we can’t do that. We go to meets to compete not to work out. It wasn’t a great opener for us,” head coach Chris Hall said.

One area in which Chicago did look strong was the middle-distance and distance events, where they recorded three of their four event wins. Third-years Julia Sizek and Kayla McDonald won the mile (5:17.46) and 800-meter (2:23.28), respectively, and fourth-year Ali Klooster finished first in the 3,000-meter (11:03.29). The Maroons’ fourth individual victory came from third-year Emily Hren in the high jump (1.55m).

Encouraging though these victories were, the distance runners have benefited from the preparation offered by their recent cross country season. It was the lack of intensity from the rest of the squad that was Hall’s biggest cause for concern.

“They haven’t been removed from competition for an extended period of time and know how to get themselves into that mode a little quicker,” Hall said of his distance runners. “It was in other areas of the team, perhaps, where we didn’t show the fire I would’ve liked.”

If there is any encouragement to be taken from the team’s performance as a whole, it is that it was only their first meet of the year. It was a chance to gauge fitness levels, get rid of any lingering nerves, and, for the first-year athletes, an opportunity to experience college-level competition for the first time.

“We didn’t run our best last Saturday, but it was important to get those first race jitters out of the way,” McDonald said, “and for those who were running their first collegiate race, they were able to get a taste of what’s expected for the rest of the season.”

Chicago will take their dual loss into a triangular meet at Illinois-Wesleyan this Saturday, where they will match up against conference rivals Wash U and host Illinois-Wesleyan.

In facing Wash U, Chicago has a rare opportunity to size up a big conference rival early in the season, and Hall is counting on his team to make the most of that opportunity.

“Just seeing [Wash U] will put a lot of motivation into the athletes in our squad,” Hall said. “I expect our kids to fight a little harder against those uniforms than what they did against Oshkosh.”

There’s no need for the Maroons to beat themselves up over a season-opening loss to one of the best teams in the country, but it will be harder to defend their performance this Saturday if it lacks the fire their head coach was looking for last Saturday.

“If I don’t see it this weekend,” Hall said, “I don’t know when I will.”

The action gets under way at 11 a.m. on Saturday, January 21.

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